One of the more popular additions to this year's racing during the Orange County Fair at Los Alamitos is announcer Larry Collmus. Or is it Trevor Denman? Would you believe Tom Durkin?
Collmus, 23, is in his first year of calling races at the fair, and one of his innovations is imitating the voices and styles of some of the country's noted track announcers.
Included in the Collmus repertoire are Denman, Durkin, Marshall Cassidy and Harry Henson.
Collmus has been the announcer at Golden Gate Fields, near San Francisco, since January 1988, and while his own style has earned him a solid reputation, his impersonations have gained the Foster City, Calif., resident additional prominence.
"It all started out when I would hang around in the press box and imitate announcers just for laughs," Collmus said. "Now it seems the fans get a big kick out of it. Each year at Golden Gate we have one day where I do the first eight races as eight different announcers, and then I do the ninth race as all eight announcers in the same race."
Collmus plans to try this trick on one of the final nights of the current fair meeting, which ends Saturday.
Not only have the fans taken a liking to horse racing's answer to Rich Little, Collmus has also received positive feedback from one of the targets of his mimicry.
"I talked to Trevor (Denman) the other day, and he said he had heard I was doing an impersonation of him every once in a while," Collmus said. "He said he thought it was pretty funny."
For Collmus, Denman, from South Africa, is not only a subject to be copied, he is also a role model.
"I guess you could say that my goal is to be an Americanized version of Trevor," Collmus said. "He is very descriptive and colorful, but most importantly he is accurate. The first rule is to get the horses right."
One horse that Collmus will likely get the chance to call this weekend is the 5-year-old stakes runner, Charlatan III, who heads the list of nominees for Saturday night's $75,000-added Orange County Handicap.
Trained by the meet's leading conditioner, Hector Palma, Charlatan III has earned more than $261,000, and in recent outings the Chilean-bred horse has faced Quiet American, Bayakoa and Sunday Silence, the 1989 horse of the year.
Charlatan III was second behind Super May in the Mervin Leroy Handicap at Hollywood Park and followed that effort with a third place behind Sunday Silence in the Californian.
Racing secretary Robert Umphrey has assigned Charlatan III the high weight of 120 pounds for the 1 1/16-mile stake.
The Orange County Handicap is just one of several stakes on closing weekend. Also scheduled are the $150,000 Governor's Cup Futurity for quarter horses Saturday, the $50,000-added Orange County Derby for thoroughbreds Friday night and the $50,000-added Chapman Handicap for thoroughbred fillies and mares Thursday night.
The Governor's Cup Futurity will have a field of 10 that includes the promising 2-year-old gelding, Blisterin, a member of the Blane Schvaneveldt stable and a winner of his only two career starts.
Blisterin was a very impressive winner of his Governor's Cup Futurity trial in the fast time of 17.60 seconds for 350 yards. That was the third-fastest time of the day, with the gelding, A One Man Band, setting the fastest qualifying mark of 17.53.
Business at this year's Orange County Fair has taken a severe beating, with both attendance and handle figures down more than 16% from last year.
The average total attendance during the meet has dipped to 6,441, including off-track sites--a drop of 16.1% from the 1989 meeting. Average handle at the meet has sunk to $1,177,983, down 16.3% from last year's figures.
Norbert Bartosik, general manager of the Orange County Racing Fair, thinks that the scheduling of the meet in direct competition with the Del Mar thoroughbred meeting is the reason for the lower figures.
"When this meet was relegated to nights, it was a bitter blow," Bartosik said. "Now we race against Del Mar, and we are landlocked in that we don't benefit from a night simulcast signal to the major tracks. When you can bet during the day on Del Mar's races from Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Fairplex (Pomona Fairgrounds), it doesn't leave much in this market for a night meet."
Bartosik said he will consult with the fair's board of directors to discuss possible options for future meets.
"We have to look at all of our options," Bartosik said. "It seems pretty clear that we have to do something different."